Thursday, December 9, 2010

December writing group

I belong to a monthly writing group where one person brings a prompt and we all try (and generally succeed) at writing a complete-ish story in thirty minutes. I've never been much of a short story writer, so it's a bit of a challenge for me, but it's fun, and it gets the writing gears turning (especially on those bad months when I haven't been writing much).

In the vein of my Nano postings, and since I'm not all that sure of what to do with this blog, here's my unedited super-short thirty minute story.

* * *

James steered the boat out into the water, back to his route. The route he repeated every hour. He flicked a switch on the console that started the tour announcements. As long as he made the bridge by the end of the French language section, he was set for thirty minutes.

The woman's recorded voice discussed the old oak tree on the left bank. It was a nice oak tree, but what the woman was saying wasn't true. It was only forty years old, not two hundred and fifty, and was planted by the city with a number of other oaks, most of which died from disease. It was the oldest tree in view, but it wasn't the first tree planted in the city by John Remington, the city's founder.

This was pointed out to him by an older man last year. The old man was traveling by himself and was apparently a scholar of old oak trees, or maybe John Remington, or maybe just being a pain in the ass. He was right, but nobody cared, as evidenced by the fact that nobody bothered to change the recorded tour.

Last trip had a birthday party. What a nightmare. It was like watching a headache build. The kids were all well behaved at first, but by the ten minute mark they were bored and running around like rabid monkeys. The parents, either oblivious, or to tired to care, did nothing. For a moment he thought they were in trouble. All of the kids ran to one side of the boat to see the toymaker's house (it wasn't the toymaker's house, that burned down in the 70's). Unfortunately this was also the side that many of the parents had chosen to sit on. The boat got very close to capsizing, which would have been a big problem. While James was licensed to pilot the boat, and he was trained in what to do in case of emergencies, he didn't really pay much attention to that part, and it was a long time ago. Fortunately the boat didn't capsize and the kids went back to their random running around, rebalancing the boat, providing more reinforcement of his general isolationist philosophy of letting things just take care of themselves.

The shadow of the bridge passed over the boat, the recording of the man speaking French cut out. Perfect. He leaned back, one hand resting lazily on the steering wheel.

A man and woman started arguing near him. An advantage of this job was that he was basically invisible. People paid him no attention, and rarely thought of him when talking to each other. He learned intimate pieces of people's lives during the trip. They even tipped him at the end.

This couple was no different, they pulled their quiet argument back away form the other tourists, towards him. He listened to both sides of the argument, carefully weighing their facts. Some trips brought couples together, and some pushed them apart. This trip was the latter for this couple.

James had a knack for predicting the future of couples' relationships. More accurately, he had a knack for predicting doom, which, honestly, was more fun. People that stayed together weren't as fun to listen to on the boat.

The couple reached a temporary agreement and went back to the side to try and catch up on what they missed. They were just passing the half size Big Ben replica. Little Big Ben. For this section, the recording in English had a british accent.

James scanned across the customers. A frown here, a snubbed conversation there, over in the corner an icy silent treatment was being partially ignored. These people were all doomed in their relationships. Another boat full of them. It was like the opposite of the Love Boat.

He pulled the boat up to dock near Little Big Ben, flipping another switch that started the recordings to tell people how to safely get off the boat.

He jumped onto the dock and tied up the boat, then let people off near the giant plastic frog with the sign "Tips are Great".

He smiled at them as they got off the boat, the poor, doomed souls, then prepared for the next group.

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